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The protagonist of the play is King Henry IV. Henry had come to the throne by overthrowing Richard II, in which he had received the help of the Percies. After the usurpation, Henry IV is troubled by the Percies for not giving them their expected rewards.
The main conflict faced by the protagonist Henry is to either be ruled by the Percies and give into their demands, or else face their rebellion and fight them on the battlefield. The king requires the aid of his son, Hal, however, to present an effective opposition and keep the kingdom intact. With the support of Hal, as well as Sir Walter Blunt, Westmoreland, and Prince John, he wins the battle against the Percies and preserves order.
The play has a group of noblemen who are dissatisfied with King Henry IV. The primary group is the Percy family - Hotspur, Northumberland, and Worcester. The Percies are angry at their perceived mistreatment at the hands of the king and seek retribution and justice. Hotspur is the leader of the rebellion, but it is the evil and cunning Worcester who is the main villain of the play. Other antagonists include Mortimer, Glendower, and Douglas, who ally themselves with the Percies.
The climax occurs in Act III, Scene 2. As preparations for war are at their peak, Hal returns to court and vows to participate in the defense of the kingdom. The king and the prince reconcile and Hal is asked to lead an army to Shrewsbury to fight the rebels. With Prince Hal firmly in the main plot, the comic subplot is brought to a close, and the action begins to focus on putting down the rebellion.
The king is successful in suppressing the rebellion. Hal kills Hotspur. The rebel leaders are captured; Worcester and Vernon are sentenced to death, while Douglas is set free. The king makes preparations to move against his remaining opposition.